The book in which the Doctor gets married, but not to River Song or the TARDIS!
Sunday, 30 October 2011
The book in which the Doctor gets married, but not to River Song or the TARDIS!
Saturday, 29 October 2011
The novelisation of this story, Dr. Who and the Crusaders was in my school library. I really enjoyed reading it at the age of ten, though it was a little more difficult to understand than other Target novels, for instance The Horns of Nimon. As with so many children, a story about knights had instant appeal. The novelisation contained an interesting piece of dialogue, in which the Doctor explained that the TARDIS crew can never change history. Once they land, they are instantly involved in the flow of history. This is how I understand time in Doctor Who. Whatever planet the TARDIS lands on, it's crew don't work against history but perform their allotted role. So when the Doctor goes to Terra Alpha, in The Happiness Patrol, he does not alter history by overthrowing Helen A. The downfall of Helen A was a part of history, the Doctor simply took his place in the tide of history and brought it about. This does not mean that there is no free-will. The Doctor's knowledge of the future is not exhaustive, so he simply does what seems right in the situation, knowing that history will play itself out. That's not how most fans and Doctor Who writers view history in Doctor Who, but I think this makes sense of a lot of stories. As regards The Crusade, if history were not immutable, then the Doctor would surely have been concerned that his involvement in the politics of the court of Richard the Lionheart could alter history. However, he knows that history is immutable and so nothing he does will alter the outcome of history.
Friday, 28 October 2011
Despite loving the Virgin Doctor Who novels, I really dislike Bernice Summerfield. She has always come across to me as too clever and confident, as well as horribly self-righteous. That tends to keep me from taking much interest in the vast range of Benny Summerfield spin-offs released by both Virgin and Big Finish. It does seem that unlike me, Lawrence Miles likes Benny. He writes well for her, though it did not make me like the character any more.
Sunday, 23 October 2011
Saturday, 22 October 2011
The Doctor : "You are now travelling through time and space."
Ben : "Yes, well, make sure I get back by tea-time!"
Animated reconstruction courtesy of DrWhoAnimator.
Perhaps a good deal of charm in watching this story today is that they don't make anything resembling this these days. Historical adventures are pretty much a dead genre. There are historical dramas with lots of emotion and serious themes, but historical adventures with lots of swashbuckling, black-hearted villains and hidden treasure are a thing of the past. I have never actually seen any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but the impression I get is that they are more in the realm of fantasy than historical action adventure. Perhaps it is a little surprising that this jolly pirate story was followed in the same season by The Highlanders, which is essentially another pirate story. While this story is on the surface a more light-hearted story than The Highlanders, it is apparent that the Troughton story is treated as more of a comedy, particularly in the lead actor's performance. While The Highlanders is enjoyable, the comedy feels out of place in such a dark story, while in The Smugglers, is able to tell an exciting adventure, not quite a comedy, but with a keen sense of fun.
The most obvious difference between The Smugglers and The Highlanders is that the latter provides a swashbuckling pirate adventure that arises from its historical setting, while the former makes no real use of it's historical location (other than the frequency of smuggling in that era). The Smugglers would not have looked out of place in the Colin Baker, with a change of setting to a far future space colony and the pirates as thuggish Sawardian types. It has to be said that the 17th century offers an awful lot of missed potential for historical stories, with events like the Civil War, the Monmouth Rebellion and the Glorious Revolution. One of the really sad things today is the lack of awareness of this period. Our schools teach kids about the Nazis and Henry VIII, but seem to miss out on this much more fascinating period of English history. Likewise film and television producers are fixated with the Tudors and seem to forget about the far more interesting Stuarts.
Obviously we don't know quite what this looked like, as no episodes survive. Nevertheless, given the BBC's talent for producing great historical drama, we can imagine that this looked quite fantastic. Judging from the audio recordings, most of the performances are pretty impressive.
This is the first story with Ben and Polly as companions proper. I love the way that the Doctor explodes with rage when he finds them aboard; there is something adorable about the way the Furst Doctor lost his temper. After they have left the TARDIS it becomes clear that he is coming to accept the arrival of young strays as routine.
Ben and Polly are a glorious companion team. It's tragic that they have only one completed story in the archives. Ben is tough and heroic, but not in the rather stiff Dan Dare mode of Ian Chesterton. As much as I love the original TARDIS team of Season 1, the cockney sailor is a good deal more fun than Ian. Polly is simply delightful. Her Received Pronunciation makes her seem as though she is from another world. Oh for the days when middle class girls spoke properly! Regrettably, the writers were never very consistent in their portrayal of Polly, even within the same story. One moment she is bold, confident and resourceful; another moment she is whimpering at the sight of a rat, as she does here.
One difficulty of this story is how little Ben and Polly seem to take it seriously. They adjust remarkably easily to the realisation that they have been transported to the 17th century. Then when locked in a dungeon, having been accused of murder, Polly talks about how much fun she is having! We could look to the philosopher Baudrillard and say something very postmodern about this. We might suppose that if a person from the Sixties who was used to watching swashbuckling ITC historical adventures were to be transported to the 17th century and placed in the midst of vicious pirates, she might indeed treat this as only a virtual reality equivalent of what she was used to seeing on the television or in the cinema.
There is no complex characterisation here, but we do get a wonderful cast of characters, the vicious Cherub, Longbottom, the creepy church warden, the corrupt squire and the remarkably heroic taxman, Blake. These people are so colourful!
This is not deep and educational like The Massacre or full of emotional drama like The Aztecs, but it is a wonderfully fun escapist adventure story. I doubt that any future Doctor Who producer will ever make anything like this.
Friday, 21 October 2011
In his infamous 2002 interview, Lawrence Miles said of Big Finish:
Sunday, 16 October 2011
Animated recon courtesy of DrWhoAnimator.
Saturday, 15 October 2011
The City of the Saved is a vast city the size of a spiral galaxy. It exists in a pocket universe situated after the destruction of this universe. Its vast population is made up of the resurrected bodies of every human being that has ever lived. Obviously, this is massive high concept science fiction.
Monday, 10 October 2011
The non-regulars give some very enjoyable performances in this story, of particularly note is the cynical King Priam and the thuggish Odysseus. Everyone seems to be really enjoying the story. Perhaps the big letdown is Adrienne Hill as Katarina. For somebody who is about to be introduced as a companion, she makes no impact whatsoever.
Sunday, 9 October 2011
"And now, they're all gone. All gone. None of them could understand. Not even my little Susan. Or Vicki. And as for Barbara and Chatterton - Chesterton - they were all too impatient to get back to their own time. And now, Steven. Perhaps I should go home. Back to my own planet. But I can't... I can't..."